Photos caption: Getty Images
Photos caption: Getty Images

India’s success in Australia ensured them the No. 1 spot in ICC team rankings in the T20I format. Once they pulled off the 3-0 whitewash, one knew that India had sorted their core for the ICC World T20 2016, so when the five wise men led by Sandeep Patil and captain MS Dhoni gathered around the table to chalk out the 15 for the Asia Cup T20 followed by the marquee event, not many surprises were expected. READ: Hardik Pandya, Pawan Negi included as India announce ICC World T20 2016 squad

There were no major surprises thrown as the selectors picked the expected squad for the series. All players pick themselves, and the welcoming inclusion had to be of Mohammed Shami’s. The Bengal pacer, who has been India’s strike bowler in recent years, is fit and his selection does not come as a surprise. With Ashish Nehra in good form and adding variation being a left-arm pacer, Bhuvneshwar Kumar had to miss out. The seamer, who turned 26 today, on the day of the team announcement might not have an ideal celebration but Shami’s fitness closed the door on him. A good bet in the T20 format for his variation, his form has not been great off late.

Hardik Pandya, who has been phenomenal in the domestic season, had a decent tour to Australia. The top run-getter in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy did not get an opportunity to showcase his fireworks with the willow, thanks to India’s top order, who were in great form. The 22-year-old was expensive with the ball but chipped in with key wickets at critical junctures, also he impressed as a fielder, providing selectors with enough faith to persist with him. He does come across as a player with potential who will get better with exposure and selectors made a wise call. However, one man who is bound to feel distraught is Pandya’s state captain Irfan Pathan. 

Good season for Irfan Pathan

Once touted the ‘next Kapil Dev’, Irfan’s injury prone career has extremes of highs and lows. Irfan was picked by Chennai Super Kings (CSK) last season but did not play a game. He had a decent outing in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, picking 4 wickets at 29.25 but was exceptional in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. He led Baroda to the final and ended up as the highest wicket-taker. He picked up 17 wickets at 15.76. Adding to his bowling exploits were his 200 runs at 40, and a special mention goes to his strike-rate of almost 153.

Amit Mishra was a must

Looking at the current composition and competition for places, Irfan lost out on the race and another person who could have been a good pick was Amit Mishra. The experienced leg-spinner seems to enjoy a lot of confidence from India’s Test captain Virat Kohli, but has not been lucky on selection front in the shorter formats. The Indian squad currently has no leg-spinners, who can be an attacking option and add variety to the bowling kitty. Mishra has been in good form, picking up 12 wickets for Haryana at 16.91 in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and 8 wickets at 10.37 in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, with an economy-rate of under 7. READ: India squad for Asia Cup T20 2016: Perfect practice ahead of ICC World T20 2016

One should not forget Mishra’s heroics in ICC World T20 2014 in Bangladesh. He was one of the stars of India’s campaign that ended with a defeat in the hands of Sri Lanka in the tournament final. He ended with 10 wickets at 14.70 and an economy rate of 6.68. In conditions favouring spin, Mishra formed a lethal pair with Ravichandran Ashwin, and the pair found a good support from Ravindra Jadeja.

Mishra is the second-highest wicket-taker and the most successful Indian bowler in the IPL, a T20 tournament that is played in similar conditions and familiar venues where the World T20 will be staged. Harbhajan Singh has not done poorly but with another off-spinner in Ashwin around, the former is unlikely to start in the XI. Mishra over Harbhajan could have strengthened India’s bowling ammunition. Talking to NDTV, Sunil Gavaskar too mentioned the importance of a leg-spinner.

Pawan Negi: Not a surprise

It was pretty evident in the IPL 2015 that Dhoni rates the young bowling all-rounder pretty high. Negi has played for CSK and Dhoni showed a lot of trust in him, at times even more than Jadeja. Not only has he bowled more often than Jadeja but also many a times he was sent in to bat higher in the order. Negi’s selection for the series against Sri Lanka even caught the cricketer by surprise but it comes in backdrop of consistent performances for Delhi in domestic cricket.

His selection does not come as a surprise as he has been picked for the T20I series against Sri Lanka starting next week. Selectors and Dhoni made that decision keeping the mega tournament on mind.

The batting looks pretty solid, extending to the bench strength which has the likes of Ajinkya Rahane. However, another man who missed the bus is India’s Sydney ODI hero Manish Pandey. Pandey, who guided Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) to a second IPL title, has been picked for the Sri Lanka series. It will be interesting to see what happens if he gets to play in the XI and impresses against the touring Lankans.

India squad  for ICC World T20 2016 and Asia Cup 2016: MS Dhoni (c & wk), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Hardik Pandya, Ajinkya Rahane, Pawan Negi, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Ashish Nehra, Harbhajan Singh and Mohammed Shami.

(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades, all Suvajit dreamt of was being India’s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sports marketer, strategist, entrepreneur,  philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it’s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully and rivu7)